On Saturday night, some of the users on Periscope — Twitter’s recently launched live-streaming app — pointed iPhones at their televisions and streamed the big fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their collective actions sparked a flood of news stories about Periscope and piracy.
While these stories are not surprising, it’s hard to believe the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight represents the line in the sand between big media and live streaming apps that some have been waiting for. Does this technology pose a looming threat to traditional entertainment?
This shouldn’t be the test case. First, consider the exclusive nature of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. The $100 pay-per-view price tag automatically limited the size of the event’s audience (estimated at 3 million paying customers). Were those who watched on Periscope truly the same people who were expected to pay? Meanwhile, some who did pay found themselves seeking a last minute workaround, following cable and satellite outages.
Periscope CEO and Co-Founder Kayvon Beykpour made a similar point, speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York Tuesday. “You had cable companies who literally couldn’t provide access to people who paid,” said Beykpour.
Also consider that many of Periscope’s users go to the app to experience something different than what you’d find on television. On Saturday night, for example, you would’ve discovered an endless flow of interesting live-streams from around the globe — from behind-the-scenes footage at major concerts (legally streamed by the music acts) to friendly folks conversing at pubs in London. Sure, some of those active users probably watched a stream of the fight. But it seems doubtful they planned to do so days in advance.
That’s not to say Periscope isn’t taking this seriously. In reaction to the fight backlash, Beykpour tweeted “Piracy does not excite us. Trust me, we respect IP rights & had many people working hard to be responsive last night (including myself).” At the TechCrunch event Tuesday, Beykpour went on to say that Periscope worked closely with its media partners (including CBS and Showtime) to take down any questionable Periscope feeds.
But, the reality is this technology is far from under control.
“Right now, it’s the wild west,” former Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff told The Wrap in an interview. “It’s inevitable there will be parameters put on it.” At the same time, Beykpour noted Tuesday that “piracy…is not a Periscope thing. It’s an Internet thing.”
The big question is whether media companies will continue to work with Periscope or take a more aggressive approach to resolving such matters. If it’s through nasty battles in courts, let’s not forget the lessons learned from the music industry’s legal battle with Napster. Despite some key legal wins, the labels were never the same afterwards. If it’s through limitations with the technology itself, don’t expect civil libertarians to sit still. Remember the reaction when Apple, in 2012, was granted a patent allowing it to remotely disable your iPhone?